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Conflict

Peace – or at least the absence of overt conflict – is essential to achieving social health, economic development, and environmental protection and restoration.

Despite the end of the Cold War, there are some 30 "high-intensity" wars raging around the planet – virtually all between factions within states – and dozens of more localized conflicts.

These conflicts cause millions of casualties, as well as social and economic disruptions that threaten food supplies, health, local environments and political stability in many regions.

There are many causes of conflict, but resource scarcity – caused or worsened by population growth, over consumption, environmental destruction, and inequitable distribution – is a common flashpoint.

Most conflicts are over access to farmland, water, fishing grounds, timber resources, or control of valuable commodities such as diamonds, coffee or narcotics.

Combatant groups – whether government, opposition, or communal entities – are often members of a particular class, ethnic group, or religion struggling for access to natural resources, social services, or political power

The economic, environmental, and human price of this conflict is extremely high.

World military spending is nearly $800 billion annually – more than 25 times the cost of providing primary education, basic health care, nutrition, clean water, and sanitation worldwide.

Preparing for, financing, and fighting wars has destabilized local and regional economies, devastated ecosystems and habitats, and polluted water and soil with radioactive and other toxic materials

More than five million civilians have died in conflicts during the past decade, and many times that number have been driven from their homes.

Halting this deepening cycle of conflict and creating conditions for peace and stability depends upon several strategies.

One is international intervention to halt or at least limit the spread of armed conflict at an early stage to minimize casualties and diminish economic, social, and environmental damage.

Another is to expose and curtail illicit transfers of weapons, money, and natural resources used to support and extend conflicts.

Most important in the long-term is to promote social health, human rights, economic reform and sustainable development, and effective, democratic governance under which all groups are fairly represented and resources are more equitably distributed.

Energy

After food and water, energy is our most basic need.

Modern economies and cultures are built almost entirely around energy production and consumption.

The great concern about energy is not, as many have feared in the past, diminishing supplies. It is that our current energy models are unsustainable because of environmental, economic, geopolitical, and equity issues.

Our current energy models rely primarily on the following components:

Hydrocarbon fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) provide nearly 80 percent of world energy, but cause smog and acid rain, and may be linked to global warming.

Traditional biomass fuels (solid wood) provide almost 10 percent of world energy but contribute to deforestation, desertification, and air pollution.

Nuclear generation provides just over 6 percent of world energy, but generates toxic waste requires long-term safe disposal.

Existing energy systems are neither reliable nor affordable for many of the world’s people, of whom some two billion lack even electricity.

Without access to reliable, affordable energy models, it is impossible for nations to generate sufficient economic growth to overcome poverty and improve social health.

Redesigning world energy systems could not only minimize environmental impacts, but also provide tremendous economic opportunities in industrialized and developing regions.

One obvious leverage point would be more efficient use of existing energy (about two-thirds of which is currently wasted worldwide) and more equitable distribution.

Another is shifting to clean, renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen.

And another is transferring sustainable energy technologies to developing regions to allow them to "leapfrog" beyond the energy models used by industrialized regions.

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